Literary News: In Case You (Really) Missed It

coffee-flower-reading-magazine

The past 14 hours have been a whirlwind of fun: last night my book club met to drink a few bottles of wine while discussing the horrendous novel All the Birds in the Sky (review coming next week!). This morning was even invigorating, because I was finally able to login to Pokemon Go, the mobile game that’s taken over the globe. I’ve been gallivanting around San Francisco hoping to catch them all!

But now it’s time to get serious…I have a confession to make.

In full disclosure, I have a terrible habit of filing away articles for my blog, then forgetting that they exist. Every time my cursor hovers over the bookmarks folder on my browser, I cringe and try to ignore the growing list as best I can.

But 2016 is half over, and I just can’t take it anymore! Time for some summer cleaning!

Here are the first six months of literary news in review, in case you really, really missed the boat, or just want to relive the excitement!

Literary Feminism

  • “Damn, you’re not reading any books by white men this year? That’s so freakin brave and cool” (Jezebel)
  • “In literature and in life, men and women still want different things in a mate” (Jezebel)
  • “One weird trick that makes a novel addictive” (Jezebel)

Harry Potter News

  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to be eighth book” (BBC)
  • “J.K. Rowling’s History of Magic in North America was a travesty from start to finish” (io9)

Hollywood Adaptations

  • “Ava DuVernay confirmed to direct A Wrinkle in Time” (IndieWire)
  • “Inside the peculiar new home of Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine” (Entertainment Weekly)
  • “6 adaptations that fixed the book (according to the author)” (Cracked)
  • “First Look as Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf on A Series of Unfortunate Events set” (Spinoff Online)
  • Will drama about young William Shakespeare picked up to series by TNT” (Deadline)

Et Cetera

  • Placing Literature maps out real places you’ve read about in books” (Lifehacker)
  • “The mass-market edition of To Kill a Mockingbird is dead” (New Republic)

Can you tell I’m a fan of Gawker Media publications? After reading this list, what literary news made you most excited? And if I missed any headlines, please send them my way!

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RIP Harper Lee, America’s Literary Sweetheart

I was feeling cheery this Friday morning and was brainstorming my next blog post, when I clicked through my RSS feed and this news broke my heart.

It’s not that I was surprised that Lee passed away, given that she was 89 and in failing health. It’s that a light has gone out in American culture. As the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee has shaped our views on race relations, the justice system, and what it means to be a true patriot. In a sense, it’s as if Lee and Atticus Finch were synonymous in our minds, and today we are all Scout mourning the loss of a parent.

I can only hope that Lee found peace in her last years, and that her lawyers and publishers respect her final wishes. I’ve already discussed why I won’t be reading Go Set a Watchman, given the controversy surrounding its release, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t hold Lee’s words dear. In fact, it only seems right that I share some of my favorite quotes from America’s literary sweetheart:

On reading: “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”

On equality: “I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.”

On courage: “Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It’s knowing you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

I could write pages and pages worth of gratitude, but my words would never deliver as much impact as yours have. Thank you for all that you have done, Harper Lee. The world will surely miss you.

Why You Should Not Celebrate the New Harper Lee Novel

Image via Jezebel

A couple days ago, the world imploded with the news that Harper Lee, America’s literary sweetheart, will be publishing a new book 55 years after her debut, which is set for release this summer.

The novel, Go Set a Watchman, is not so much a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird as it is a first draft. It features Scout as an adult twenty years after the story of TKAM; preferring the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood, Lee’s editor requested that Scout’s point of view be written entirely during that period of time. Lee, ever the people-pleaser, stated that, “I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told.”

That attitude is exactly why fans should hesitate rejoicing over this new release. Today Harper Lee is 88 years old and going increasingly blind and deaf with age. Needless to say, she is not in an ideal mental state and is extremely vulnerable to exploitation.

This book’s publication would not be the first time that someone has tried to screw Lee over. The author filed two lawsuits in 2013: one over an alleged attempt to get her to sign over her copyright to TKAM, and the other against a local museum profiting off her prestige without compensation.

The news of this new book comes at a suspicious time, only a few months after Lee’s sister and lawyer Alice passed away at the age of 103. Lee has no children and now her entire estate is at risk, thanks to the whims of her editors and their lawyers.

The poor woman lives in a nursing home, can’t see or read, and has been known to sign anything put in front of her. Why, after decades of intense privacy, would Lee publish a story? Why are her editors so interested in this book which had been previously written off as a subpar first draft? And why has this release been timed so soon after the death of her sister and former legal counsel?

If you don’t agree with my skepticism, check out Jezebel’s critique and follow-up of the news. Then read The Toast’s scathing response to the interview given by Lee’s editor at HarperCollins, Hugh Van Dusen. Here are the most alarming statements he gave:

Q: Harper is a famously private person. Does she have any ambivalence about the fact that the publication of the book is going to result in a lot of new publicity?
A: I don’t think so. In our press release she says…

Q: Has the book been edited? Or is what will eventually be on bookshelves untouched from what was in the safety deposit box?
A: If it has been edited, nobody’s told me.

Q: Has there been any direct contact about the book between Harper and HarperCollins? Or is it all down through intermediaries?
A: Are you asking if we’ve been in touch with her directly? I don’t know, but I don’t think so, only because she’s very deaf and going blind. So it’s difficult to give her a phone call, you know?

Q: Is it fair to say that Harper won’t be talking to the media now that she’s got a new book out?
A: I don’t think anything there’s going to be anything more revealing than what’s in the press release.

I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a ton of BS. I fear that these snakes are coercing her into signing away her fortune. TKAM has sold over 40 million copies, and now everyone is hoping to profit off this impending jackpot while Lee quietly lives out the end of her days.

I hate to be a buzzkill, because I love TKAM as much as the next person. It is the quintessential ‘Great American Novel,’ and its critique of race relations in the South is just as timely today as it was half a century ago. TKAM is a national treasure, and I worry that Harper Lee is about to get her treasure taken away from her.

So how do you feel about Go Set a Watchman? Are you ready to “Go Set” a preorder, or do you think Harper Lee needs her own “Watchman” over her threatened estate?

Top Ten Favorite Film Adaptations of Books

When it comes to blogging memes, I don’t follow any consistently, but I like jumping in when I like the topic (not to mention, when I’ve got the time!). It’s rare that I post on a Tuesday, but Alison Doherty at Hardcovers and Heroines inspired me to discuss my favorite movie adaptations of books.

Without further ado! In order from good to greatest:

  • Fight Club, based on the book by Chuck Palahnuik

I was surprised to find out that Daniel Day-Lewis starred in two of these films…but then again, I shouldn’t be because he’s an amazing actor! So which movies would you add to your list?

If you’d like to follow this Top Ten meme, check out The Broke and The Bookish!

Happy (Literary) Father’s Day!

Happy Father’s Day! As I spend today enjoying my daddy’s company before heading back home, I’d like to reblog a post I wrote two years ago: my list of best and worst fathers in literature. I originally wrote this to celebrate my dad’s birthday, but with the extra traffic it’s been getting lately, why not give it the spotlight once again?

Give him a hug – Best book dads

Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Defender of the discriminated, Atticus was the perfect role model to kids Jem and Scout. Possibly literature’s favorite lawyer, he defended an African-American man wrongly accused of raping a white woman. He risked complete alienation from his Southern community, even suffered Bob Ewell spitting in his face, but he did so in order to stand up for what he believed was right. Definitely check out Academy Award-winning Gregory Peck in the 1962 film, one of the best adaptations of all time.

Arthur Weasley from Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling: Another dad who fights against racism, this time of the magical kind. Mr. Weasley loved all things Muggle, and was obsessed with learning how the non-wizards live. His empathy passed on to all of his seven children, even if a little late (looking at you, Percy!). When the going got tough, Arthur stepped up as a member of the Order of the Phoenix, battling Death Eaters while Harry could destroy Voldemort. But I remember the most was how warm and kind the Weasleys were, and how awesome it must have been to spend the holidays with them!

Kick him to the curb – Worst book dads

King Lear from King Lear by William Shakespeare: Don’t let the title fool you, this king was royally messed up. The elderly Lear decides to give his kingdom to one of his three daughters–the one who flatters him the most. Goneril and Regan brown-nose excessively, but Cornelia refuses to do so and is disinherited. But when Lear lives with his other two daughters, they are still not grateful enough. After a series of betrayals, Lear goes crazy with paranoia. I won’t go into all the play’s details, but eventually tragedy befalls all three daughters, and Lear realizes his mistakes…too late, though, because he dies quickly afterward. Moral of the story: you have to earn love to receive it.

Denethor from The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien: Lucius Malfoy and Lord Asriel were close runners-up, but Denethor truly makes my blood boil. First off, he’s not even worthy of his throne, which actually belongs to Aragorn. Then, he treats his son Faramir like dirt, because his beloved son Boromir died on the quest to destroy the One Ring. I mean, take a look at this despicable conversation between father and son in the movie (courtesy of IMDb):

Denethor: Is there a captain here who still has the courage to do his lord’s will?
Faramir: You wish now that our places had been exchanged… that I had died and Boromir had lived.
Denethor: Yes.
[whispering]
Denethor: I wish that.
Faramir: Since you are robbed of Boromir… I will do what I can in his stead.
[Bows and turns to leave]
Faramir: If I should return, think better of me, Father.
Denethor: That will depend on the manner of your return.

But Faramir still fights for his father, trying to win his love. He gets gravelly injured, and Denethor–believing him to be dead–tries to burn himself and his son on a pyre. Luckily, Gandalf and Pippin save Faramir, while Denethor goes completely nuts, throwing himself aflame off a cliff. Well, good riddance!

Any other dads that should be on these best and worst lists? 

Masterpiece Monday: Book Versus Movie (Venn Diagram Edition)

So I found this Venn diagram the other day on TheFrisky.com, and since we were discussing classic novels and their respective film adaptations yesterday, I figured you all would have plenty to say about this.

As for me, I completely agree that The Great Gatsby, The Scarlet Letter, and One Day are better as books. However, I think that Never Let Me Go is outstanding either way, and I’d avoid Beloved in any form.

I’d be hard-pressed to find somebody who hated The Godfather, Fight Club, and The Princess Bride as movies, but I’d add that Fight Club is just as kick-ass on paper. And obviously, Harry Potter and To Kill a Mockingbird deserve to overlap both categories.

Lastly, after reading interviews of the egotistical, pompous jerk that is Nicholas Sparks, I refuse to give him any money whatsoever. I only wish I knew about his arrogance before I watched The Notebook, because I admit that it was a great movie, for being a sappy sob-fest, that is.

I haven’t read or watched most of the others, so please enlighten me with your opinions. Did this diagram get it right? What would you add? Let’s keep the debate going!

Big Book Phonies: Buying Novels Just to Look Smarter

Pictured: Just one of my bookshelves, with stacks of manga up to the ceiling!

I just read an article posted yesterday on the Daily Mail’s website called “The books we buy to look more intelligent: How the average shelf is filled with 80 novels we have never read.”

A British survey found:

  • 70% of books on people’s shelves have never been read
  • 40% admitted their collection is for display only
  • 57% only display literary classics, even if they haven’t read them
  • 47% prefer “trashy” novels they would never show
               The books Brits pretend to read the most are Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Jane Eyre, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Wuthering Heights. On the flip side, the authors they consider “guilty pleasures” are Sophie Kinsella, Jodi Picoult, Jackie Collins, Helen Fielding, and Danielle Steele.
               Obviously, this article has flaws, since it doesn’t include how many people were surveyed or their demographics (age, gender, ethnicity, education level, etc.). I don’t even know how the survey was given, whether by phone, online, or randomly asking people on the street. Thus, the results should be taken with a grain of salt.
               I found this article both depressing and amusing. The handful of books on my shelves that I haven’t read are the ones that I haven’t read YET–my to-read list is just backed up right now. But I will get to them eventually, because I could never spend money on a book without even attempting to finish it.
               I bet if this survey was conducted in my town, the results would be even worse. Most people here probably don’t even OWN 80 books! I could count all of my mine, but it would take forever: I’ve filled my two bookshelves to the brim, shoved piles of books in my closet, and stacked hundreds of manga on top of my largest bookshelf so that they reach the ceiling (see photo above). Packing these books when I finally move out of my parents’ house is a recurring nightmare for me!
               But I always tell my students that if you haven’t read a book, don’t pretend to know it. I can tell a mile away. Read it or don’t, period. What if someone strikes up a conversation about To Kill a Mockingbird with you, and you rant about the evils of animal abuse? You’ll just look dumber when your friend realizes you can’t talk the talk.
               That being said, I can understand the pressures to read literary classics and avoid popular fiction. The Jane Austen bandwagon is so huge, sometimes I feel like less of a woman for not finishing Pride and Prejudice. But while I might tell people I read it, I always clarify that I read only the first 50 pages before I got so bored I stopped. I might try it again, but if I don’t, that’s okay. Everyone has different tastes, and I think that as long as people read, it doesn’t matter what the books are.
               I also love Sophie Kinsella, and we should stop treating popular novels as “trashy” or “guilty pleasures.” There’s nothing wrong with reading, or writing, chick-lit/romance novels, and if anyone looks down on you, then screw them. Nobody likes a pompous reader anyway.
               So the moral of my story: be proud of what you read, and don’t waste your money on trying to impress your house-guests. Try to read some classics, but don’t beat yourself up if they’re not your cup of tea. Reading should be a reward, not a punishment.
               What do you guys think of this survey? Are you a big book phony? Do you feel pressure to read certain books? Are there books we “should” or “shouldn’t” read? Post your thoughts!!!